By Sister MT Muhuhu
Last summer, I took part in a march for Black Lives Matter (BLM) in Kingston, Jamaica. I would at any time go out to support the BLM movement, not only because I am a Black woman, or because I am a Sister of Mercy who has committed myself to work for justice, but because BLM helps me as an individual to express my belief that color should not be a dividing factor among humans. The color of skin is an accident of birth and should never define or classify a human being.
Being born in Kenya, I did not experience racism or know how it felt to be sidelined because of my skin color until I landed in the United States. I had heard about racism, but it had no impact on me until that first visit to the U.S., in 2017–18. Then, I experienced racism that will forever be a part of me.
I share my story to assert that racism is real. During my stay, I volunteered in different places, including with a social worker who allowed me to accompany her as she went to homes, shelters and rehab centers, giving me a real experience of social work. She was a white woman. I had to stand immediately beside her because, on several occasions, I was locked outside when the doorkeepers assumed that I was a needy woman. On other occasions, I was instructed to leave the place where I was sitting with the social worker and take a seat with the other residents or get in the food line. The social worker had to come continually to my defense. Every occasion was followed by an apology, followed by, “I thought … you were…”
I could not comprehend why they picked me and not the white woman. I was not wearing shabby clothes that made me look like a person in need; I was dressed in regular attire. I told the social worker, who said that it was because of my skin color. Those in charge assumed that I was a client because I was Black, and to them, Black means needy or hungry. This shocked me.
I share my story not for myself or to attract any attention, but again, because racism is real. And because I believe firmly that BLM is not a statement, it is a cry for justice. I now know from experience the depth of the pain of being set aside or ignored just because of your skin color. I had support from the Mercy community, and I know that all white people are not racist. But this small experience has given me a glimpse of what it truly means to be a Black woman, a person of color, in the United States.
Therefore, I marched with and support BLM not only because I am a Sister of Mercy who has committed herself to fighting injustice in any form. I support BLM because they have made a platform for the cry of justice to be heard; consequently, I do not shy away from saying Black lives matter! Viva justice! Viva mercy!